The Complete Guide To Peer Support Core Competencies

Have you ever wondered what makes peer support truly effective? Well, to be honest, it’s a bunch of different things. However, a strong foundation based on a set of peer support core competencies is definitely a key factor, so it’s a good place to start. 

But what are they? And how do you incorporate them into your work as a peer specialist or recovery coach? 

In this comprehensive guide, we will take a deep dive into each of these core competencies. Moreover, we will look at their significance, and how they contribute to recovery and well-being. 

So let’s get to it, we have a lot to cover!

Table of Contents

What Are Core Competencies?

Core competencies are the fundamental skills, knowledge, and attitudes that someone needs to be effective in a specific field.

When it comes to peer support, these competencies are the building blocks that allow us to create an environment of trust, authenticity, and respect. 

SAMHSA's Core Competencies Of Peer Support

SAHMSA identifies 5 main core competencies for peer support. Each one reflects certain ideals and principles that act as a guide for anyone in the profession. Moreover, they provide a more detailed list of core competencies for peer support workers in the behavioral health field.

  • Recovery-Oriented

    This approach is all about helping people on their personal journey toward wellness. It focuses on their strengths, letting them take charge of their own recovery, and giving them hope for the future.

  • Person-Centered

    This means tailoring the support and services to fit each person's unique needs, preferences, and values. It's all about respecting their choices, empowering them, and treating them with dignity throughout the peer support process.

  • Voluntary

    In a nutshell, peer support is a choice. Nobody is forced or pressured into it. In other words, people willingly participate and have the freedom to make decisions about their own recovery.

  • Relationship-Focused

    Building strong connections and nurturing trusting relationships is key in peer support. It's about creating a safe and supportive space where people can openly share their experiences, listen to each other with empathy, and understand one another.

  • Trauma-Informed

    Understanding the impact of trauma is crucial. It's about creating an environment that promotes safety, trust, and collaboration, while being mindful of avoiding anything that might trigger past traumas. In peer support, we integrate knowledge about trauma to provide the best possible help.

By embodying these principles, peer support workers can guide individuals on their recovery journey. More importantly, we can help them regain control of their lives and navigate the challenges they may face.

Core Competencies: The Pillars of Peer Support

Along with the 5 major core competencies, SAMSHA provides a list of core competencies for behavioral health workers. Since peer support specialists fall into this category, we should take a look at what they mean for us. 

Category 1: Engages Peers in Collaborative and Caring Relationships

Building strong and supportive relationships is the whole idea behind peer support. It’s all about connecting with individuals on a deep level, forming bonds that are rooted in trust, empathy, and shared experiences.

So, let’s dive into the first category of core competencies that focus on exactly that.

Initiates contact With Peers

As peer support workers, sometimes we have to make the first move. If there is an individual who is needing support, we can ease the tension and make them feel more comfortable about seeking support.

This can be as simple as walking up and saying,  “Hey there! Mind if we have a chat?” Don’t underestimate the power of taking initiative. Often, something this simple can make a world of difference.

Listens to peers with careful attention to the content and emotion being communicated

Listening is more than just understanding words. When we listen carefully, we can pick up on emotion, feeling, and the deeper nuances of the conversation. That’s the level of attentiveness peer support workers bring to their interactions.

With genuine interest, they listen to make sure they understand where the individual is coming from. 

Reaches out to engage peers across the whole continuum of the recovery process

Recovery is a journey filled with ups, downs, and everything in between. Peer support workers recognize that support is needed at every step of the way. 

Whether someone is just starting their recovery or has been on the path for years, we are always ready to lend a hand.

Recovery is not a destination; it’s a lifelong process.

Demonstrates genuine acceptance and respect

In the world of peer support, acceptance and respect are key assets. They allow us to create an environment where individuals feel safe, valued, and accepted just as they are.

This means honoring each person’s unique experiences and perspectives. No judgments, no biases—just a genuine desire to understand and support.

Now that we’ve explored the first category, let’s move on to the next, where we get into the art of providing support and empowering individuals on their recovery journey.

Buckle up, because we’re just getting started!

Category II: Provides Support: Nurturing Growth and Empowerment

Sometimes peer support means being a cheerleader on the sidelines, encouraging individuals to see their potential and pursue their dreams.

Let’s explore the second category of peer support core competencies.

Validates Peers' Experiences and Feelings

Validation is the secret ingredient in building connection and trust. By mastering the art of validation, we acknowledge and affirm the experiences and feelings shared by our peers. This in turn creates a safe space for them to openly express themselves without fear of judgment.

More importantly, they know that their emotions are valid and valued.

Encourages the Exploration and Pursuit of Community Roles

A peer support worker is like a guide, pointing out all the opportunities that exist within the community.

They inspire peers to step outside their comfort zones, explore new roles, and get involved. This might mean joining a local support group, volunteering, or taking part in community events.

Man Volunteering

In any case, we should encourage individuals to embrace their potential as active members of society. At the end of the day, this all works together to build self worth and establish healthy connections. 

Conveys Hope To Peers About Their Own Recovery

Hope is where recovery begins and peer support workers are bearers of that hope. We paint a picture of possibility and remind others that recovery is possible.

In other words, peer support workers recovery oriented

Through our own lived experiences and stories of triumph, we instill a sense of hope that fuels motivation and resilience.

Celebrates Peers' Efforts And Accomplishments

As peer support workers, we should celebrate every milestone and achievement with our peers. This means acknowledging the efforts, big or small.  By doing so, we create an atmosphere that fuels ongoing progress and self-belief.

Provides Concrete Assistance To Help Peers Accomplish Tasks And Goals

Sometimes, a helping hand can make all the difference. Peer support workers offer practical support, lending a hand to peers in accomplishing tasks and reaching their goals.

This might include assisting with job applications, connecting individuals with community resources, or providing guidance on navigating systems of care. 

You never know when a helping hand will change another person’s entire life.

Category III Shares Lived Experiences of Recovery: Inspiring Hope and Connection

The third category of peer support core competencies is all about incorporating our own experiences into the role. With meaningful conversations and connection, these stories can inspire and guide individuals through recovery.

Relates Their Own Recovery Stories, And With Permission, The Recovery Stories Of Others, To Inspire Hope

Peer support workers are storytellers. They open up and share their experiences of recovery, the challenges they faced, milestones they’ve achieved, and lessons learned along the way. Which in turn, lets others know they can do the same and find their own path to wellness.

No one walks alone on the road to healing

Discusses Ongoing Personal Efforts To Enhance Health, Wellness, And Recovery

Recovery is an ongoing process and continuous journey toward well-being. By openly discussing our continuous efforts in recovery, we can provide insight and encouragement. More importantly, it reminds individuals that setbacks and challenges are normal. 

Recognizes When To Share Experiences And When To Listen

A big part of peer support is knowing when to share and when to simply listen. Remember, sometimes individuals need a listening ear more than anything else.

Additionally, we need to be mindful that when we share, our experiences don’t overshadow and minimize the perspectives of others.

Describes Personal Recovery Practices And Helps Peers Discover Recovery Practices That Work For Them

Recovery is a deeply personal process. Recognizing this, we can help individuals find what works for them. This means sharing what we have found beneficial while also encouraging individuals to explore their own preferences. 

Category IV: Personalized Peer Support: Embracing Diversity and Individuality

Peer support acknowledges that one size does not fit all. In other words, everyone’s recovery journey is unique, with its own set of challenges. Category IV focuses on personalizing peer support, recognizing the diverse needs, values, and experiences of each person. 

Understands Their Own Personal Values And Culture And How These May Contribute To Biases, Judgments, And Beliefs

Take the time to reflect on your own personal values, beliefs, and cultural background. This self-awareness helps us see how these factors can shape our perspectives and potential biases.

More importantly, it allows us to recognize and manage any potential influence they have on our interactions. 

It's only when we understand ourselves, that we can truly be there for someone else. 

Appreciates And Respects The Cultural And Spiritual Beliefs And Practices Of Peers And Their Families

In a diverse and multicultural society, peer support workers embrace and celebrate different cultural and spiritual backgrounds. This means approaching each individual with a genuine appreciation for their unique traditions, beliefs, and practices. 

This is part of cultural competency, an ongoing and essential part of being a peer specialist. 

Recognizes And Responds To The Complexities And Uniqueness Of Each Peer's Process Of Recovery

No two recovery journeys are the same. Peer support workers acknowledge and honor the experiences of each person. We understand that recovery is complex and can be influenced by personal history, trauma, co-occurring conditions, and social circumstances.

By recognizing this fact, we can provide support that meets the specific needs of each individual.

Tailors Services And Support To Meet The Preferences And Unique Needs Of Peers And Their Families

Personalization is at the heart of effective peer support. In other words, we can adapt our approach to match the preferences and unique needs of each individual.

Understanding the specific challenges, goals, and perspectives of individuals, makes our support more meaningful.

Category V: Supports Recovery Planning: Nurturing Goals and Empowering Decision-Making

In recovery, having a sense of direction can be extremely powerful. With this in mind, Let’s look at category V. This core competency in peer support involves goal setting and taking ownership of recovery.  

Assists And Supports Peers To Set Goals And To Dream Of Future Possibilities

Peer support workers assist and support individuals to create meaningful and achievable goals. In truth, it’s more than just that. We encourage them to dream of future possibilities and envision the life they aspire to lead. 

In our own humble opinion, this can be one of the more meaningful experiences we have in peer support. Helping someone realize, and chase after their dreams is something you will never forget. 

Proposes Strategies To Help A Peer Accomplish Tasks Or Goals

Recovery is more than just one goal; it is made up of countless milestones and achievements. Peer support workers propose strategies in order to help individuals reach those markers.

This might mean exploring new coping mechanisms, building a support network, or accessing resources. In any case, we provide practical suggestions and insights to help in the process.

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become

Supports Peers To Use Decision-Making Strategies When Choosing Services And Supports

Decision-making can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to the right services and support for recovery. Helping peers navigate this process is part of our responsibilities as peer support workers.

By sharing information, discussing pros and cons, and encouraging individuals to consider their preferences and values, we can take some pressure off when it comes to decision-making. 

Keep in mind however, decision making is a shared process. At no point should we be actively telling individuals what they should or should not do. 

Helps Peers To Function As A Member Of Their Treatment/Recovery Support Team

When individuals feel they are in control of their recovery, it improves outcomes for everyone. This means encouraging individuals to share their perspectives, and advocate for their needs.

In doing so, we create an environment where peers can contribute to their own care and recovery.

Researches And Identifies Credible Information And Options From Various Resources

To make informed decisions, people need accurate and reliable information. Competent peer support workers take on the responsibility of researching and identifying that information. Along with that, this includes staying up to date on treatment options and support services in your area. 

If it seems daunting, don’t worry. As you build your resource list, you will have all this info nice and neat, and easily accessible. 

Category VI: Links to Resources, Services, and Supports: Building Bridges to Community

Remember that resource list we mentioned? Category VI emphasizes the peer support core competencies of connecting peers to resources, services, and supports. As I am sure you know, recovery doesn’t happen in isolation.

It takes a community. 

Develops And Maintains Up-To-Date Information About Community Resources And Services

Knowledge is power when it comes to linking peers to community resources and services. Make it a priority to stay informed and up to date on the available resources within your community. Even better, develop relationships with organizations, agencies, and programs that might be helpful. 

My professional suggestion would be to develop a resource list. Having a detailed and complete collection of the resources and services available in your area can be a life saver. Not to mention it saves an incredible amount of time in the long run. 

Assists Peers To Investigate, Select, And Use Needed And Desired Resources And Services

Navigating the sea of resources and services can be overwhelming for individuals seeking support.

This is where we step in to help our peers research and choose the resources that best align with their needs.

Some of our finest work comes through service to others.

Remember, the key word in all of this is help. If we are taking this responsibility on ourselves, we discourage their autonomy and personal choice. In other words, we rob them of the opportunity to manage their own life. 

Helps Peers To Find And Use Health Services And Supports

Part of our core competencies includes supporting peers in finding health services. This includes locating healthcare providers, mental health professionals, addiction specialists, and other relevant experts. 

Additionally, it may involve scheduling appointments, accompanying peers to healthcare visits, or advocating for their needs. Overall, we should always make sure that individuals can access the necessary care for their recovery.

Accompanies Peers To Community Activities And Appointments When Requested

Community activities and appointments can be less intimidating with the support of a peer. We can tag along and be a reassuring presence or offer emotional support at these events if requested.

In all honesty, this will really all depend on where you work. 

Participates in community activities with peers when requested

We know, it might sound like we are repeating ourselves. But, it was included in SAMHSA’s peer support core competencies for behavioral health settings. We wouldn’t feel right leaning something out. 

That being said, there are several benefits to participating in community events with our peers. First, it helps them feel more comfortable knowing they are not alone. Second, we can model healthy social skills, which can be a powerful teaching tool.

Besides, it’s just fun.

Category VII: Provides Information about Skills Related to Health, Wellness, and Recovery: Empowering Through Education

Education and knowledge are lifelong pursuits. Category VII covers the core competencies of peer support workers in providing information about skills related to health, wellness, and recovery.

Educates Peers About Health, Wellness, Recovery, And Recovery Supports

A fundamental role of peer support workers is to educate and inform. First, there are the aspects of health, wellness, recovery, and available resources. Moreover, we should be covering mental health, addiction, self-care practices, coping strategies, and other relevant topics. 

In truth, having a solid foundation in these areas is a core competency of peer support in and of itself. By understanding the ins and outs of recovery, we give individuals the ability to make informed decisions about their life.

More importantly, it paves the way for continued growth. 

The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.

Participates With Peers In Discovery Or Co-Learning To Enhance Recovery Experiences

Learning is a two-way street. In fact, you might find that you are learning just as much as the individuals you support. This is collaboration at its finest, and it creates amazing opportunities for mutual growth. 

These moments of shared learning strengthen peer support relationships. Remember, as peer support workers, we don’t have to be experts. We are simply guides in the recovery process. 

Coaches Peers About How To Access Treatment And Services And Navigate Systems Of Care

Unfortunately, trying to figure out the healthcare system can be a nightmare. Along with being a humble guide, we can also coach peers through the process of accessing care. This means helping individuals understand the eligibility requirements and overcome barriers. 

Since we have been through the process, we can help them avoid the pitfall and frustrations we experienced.

Coaches Peers In Desired Skills And Strategies

In our opinion, this is probably the best part of working in peer support. Mostly, because this is where we can teach others the tips and tricks we have learned along the way. As peer support workers, we help individuals develop the skills and strategies that will make them successful.  

These areas include coping mechanisms, communication skills, stress management techniques, and more. 

Personally, I like to imagine myself as Q from James Bond, showing off all the cool gadgets that will come in handy

Educates Family Members And Other Supportive Individuals About Recovery And Recovery Supports

Having the support of family and friends is invaluable in recovery. Unfortunately, many people are still unfamiliar with addiction and mental health.

As peer support workers, we can help remedy this problem by providing information to these support systems. 

In this position, we can encourage questions and open discussion to provide insight on different aspects of recovery. Doing so, we create an environment that will help nurture and sustain the efforts of the individuals we serve.

Uses Approaches That Match The Preferences And Needs Of Peers

As you know, everyone is unique. Similarly, each person has unique needs and preferences. Peer support workers adapt their approaches to best fit each situation and learning style. For example, we can apply diverse techniques such as:

This also includes making sure we provide culturally relevant learning materials that resonate with the individuals we serve. Overall, being flexible in our approach ensures that everyone is able to benefits from our support. 

Category VIII: Helps Peers to Manage Crises: Nurturing Safety and Stability

Navigating crises is an inevitable part of the recovery journey. In Category VIII, we explore the core competencies of peer support workers in helping peers manage crises and fostering safety and stability.

Recognizes Signs Of Distress And Threats To Safety Among Peers And In Their Environments

A skilled peer support professional possesses the ability to recognize signs of distress and threats to safety among their peers. We develop a keen sense of observation and listen carefully to identify subtle cues that indicate someone may be experiencing a crisis.

By being attentive and perceptive, we can step in to ensure the well-being and safety of our peers.

Provides Reassurance To Peers In Distress

With crisis, anxiety and fear are common experiences. During these situations we can be a reassuring presence. Peer support workers are there to offer words of comfort, empathy, and understanding to help them regain a sense of stability.

Woman Providing Support to individual in distress- Peer Support Core Competencies

Strives To Create Safe Spaces When Meeting With Peers

Creating a safe and welcoming environment is key to managing crises. Peer support workers make a conscious effort to create spaces where individuals feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, emotions, and concerns. 

Takes Action To Address Distress Or A Crisis By Using Knowledge Of Local Resources, Treatment, Services, And Support Preferences Of Peers

When confronted with a crisis, it’s crucial to try and be proactive while taking the appropriate steps. Again, having a knowledge of local resources, treatment options, and support services can make this easier.

However, the real skill is in pairing these resources with the needs and preferences of the individual.

Assists Peers In Developing Advance Directives And Other Crisis Prevention Tools

Helping individuals with advance directives and other crisis prevention tools teaches individuals to be prepared. This means talking about and creating personalized plans that outline individuals’ preferences for their care during a crisis.

Moreover, they empower individuals to maintain control over their treatment and recovery, even in challenging circumstances.

Managing crises requires empathy, communication, and the ability to respond swiftly. 

Speaking of communication, in Category IX, we shift our focus to the value of effective communication in peer support. 

In every crisis, doubt or confusion, take the higher path - the path of compassion, courage, understanding and love.

Category IX: Values Communication: The Power of Connection

Effective communication lies at the heart of any relationship. In Category IX, we delve into the core competencies that highlight it’s significance in peer support. 

Uses Respectful, Person-Centered, Recovery-Oriented Language In Written And Verbal Interactions With Peers, Family Members, Community Members, And Others

Language has a huge impact on the well-being and self-esteem of individuals. It can be uplifting or it can tear someone down.

As peer support workers, we understand this and employ respectful, person-centered, and recovery-oriented language in all of our interactions. In particular, language that honors individuals’ experiences, strengths, and choices.

This helps create an atmosphere of respect and acceptance.

Uses Active Listening Skills

Peer support workers possess the ability to actually listen, not just hear. And yes, there is a difference. It means giving your full presence to the speaker while seeking to understand their perspective and emotions.

Even more, it incorporates a non-judgmental attitude and genuine interest. 

Active listening is the cornerstone of effective peer support and a core competency that is absolutely necessary. If there is one thing we nag on here at MHAPSS, it’s this.

Clarifies Their Understanding Of Information When In Doubt Of The Meaning

If you are unsure of something, don’t be afraid to ask questions. As one of the core competencies of peer support, seeking clarification is a simple, yet effective way to make sure everyone is on the same page. 

Assumptions can lead to misunderstandings, and that is the last thing you want. 

Asking questions shows we are engaged and interested. In the end, it actually strengthens the peer support relationship.

The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions.

Conveys Their Point Of View When Working With Colleagues

Earlier we mentioned collaboration and teamwork. Well, it is just as important when it comes to colleagues and other peer support workers. In fact, this is what allows us to provide comprehensive and holistic care. 

When working with members of the team, we should express our perspectives and ideas. That being said, the key is to do so in a respectful and constructive manner.

This way, we can ensure the best care for the individuals we support.

Documents Information As Required By Program Policies And Procedures

Accurate documentation is a vital aspect of peer support practice. Because of this, we should strive to maintain clear and organized records.

However, because things can vary from place to place, be sure to follow any program policies and procedures.

Follows Laws And Rules Concerning Confidentiality And Respects Others' Rights For Privacy

As peer support workers, we should always respect the privacy of our peers and any others involved. Part of this means adhering to laws and rules regarding confidentiality. Personal information, experiences shared, and any sensitive details disclosed during interactions should be kept confidential.

I should mention, this is about more than just following the rules. Our commitment to privacy creates a safe and trustworthy environment that helps individuals feel comfortable opening up.

Category X: Supports Collaboration and Teamwork: Building Stronger Together

Collaboration and teamwork are themes that are repeated throughout the core competencies of peer support. This is because of the strength that comes from working together.

Not to mention, it has a positive impact on the overall well-being of individuals.

Works Together With Other Colleagues To Enhance The Provision Of Services And Supports

Collaboration with other professionals allows us to combine our expertise, experiences, and perspectives. This way, we can provide comprehensive and holistic care.

Together, we can brainstorm ideas, share best practices, and find creative solutions that benefit our communities. This is one of the aspects that embodies peer support values

Assertively Engages Providers From Mental Health Services, Addiction Services, And Physical Medicine To Meet The Needs Of Peers

In truth, peer support is just one piece of the puzzle. To be effective we should understand the importance of a multidisciplinary approach.

In other words, we should work closely with other professionals in mental health, addiction, and physical medicine. 

This all works together to ensure well rounded and comprehensive care that fits the needs of the individual. 

Working together as a team-Core competencies of peer support

Coordinates Efforts With Health Care Providers To Enhance The Health And Wellness Of Peers

As peer support workers, we bridge the gap between the medical system and those we serve. By sharing valuable insights and advocating for their peers’ needs, we contribute to a more integrated and holistic approach.

Partners With Community Members And Organizations To Strengthen Opportunities For Peers

If you’ve never participated in a local outreach program, you should give it a try (seriously!). Not only does it provide new opportunities to engage with the community, but it expands your resource list as well.

Overall, these partnerships can provide unique opportunities for everyone involved. 

Strives To Resolve Conflicts In Relationships With Peers And Others In Their Support Network

Conflict can arise in any relationship, including within the peer support network. This is when we put our conflict resolution skills to good use and find constructive ways to address the situation. More specifically, we can promote open dialogue, active listening, and mutual understanding. 

Whenever you're in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.

Category XI: Promotes Leadership and Advocacy: Making a Difference Together

Leadership and advocacy are key aspects of the core competencies of peer support. Whether we like it or not, this is part of our role, and we should embrace it

Uses Knowledge Of Relevant Rights And Laws (ADA, HIPAA, Olmstead, Etc.) To Ensure That Peer's Rights Are Respected

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Olmstead Act are important things to be aware of.

First, they protect the rights of the individuals we serve, so it’s crucial to stay up to date. 

Second, we can use this knowledge to advocate for our peers. If we notice something isn’t right, or that their rights are not being upheld, we can speak up on their behalf to ensure the best possible care. 

Last but not least, they are included in our ethical responsibilities

Advocates For The Needs And Desires Of Peers In Treatment Team Meetings, Community Services, Living Situations, And With Family

As advocates, peer support workers are the voices of their peers when they can’t speak for themselves. This includes treatment team meetings, community services, and discussions related to living situations.

In these situations, making sure our peers’ perspectives are heard can sometimes fall to us. We can also advocate for our peers within their own families, helping to bridge understanding and support.

Uses Knowledge Of Legal Resources And Advocacy Organizations To Build An Advocacy Plan

To be effective advocates, peer support workers should equip themselves with knowledge of legal resources and advocacy organizations. Now, obviously we are not lawyers in any form or fashion. However, we can tap into these resources to build advocacy plans that fit needs of our peers. 

This might involve connecting individuals with legal aid or providing access to community resources. Either way, we should make sure have the support they need to advocate for themselves. 

Participates In Efforts To Eliminate Prejudice And Discrimination Of People Who Have Behavioral Health Conditions And Their Families

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma around mental health and addiction. This is another area where our advocacy skills come into place.

We should get involved with efforts aimed at eliminating that stigma, raising awareness, and promoting inclusivity. 

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.

More specifically, through community engagement,  we can educate and challenge stereotypes.

Mental health is a complex issue and we need to talk about it. 

Educates Colleagues About The Process Of Recovery And The Use Of Recovery Support Services

Peer support workers often take on the role of an educator, sometimes even with colleagues. Because of our lived experience, we can provide a unique perspective on the recovery process and the services involved.

Which in turn, contributes to a more person-oriented standard of care. 

Actively Participates In Efforts To Improve The Organization

Similarly, we provide valuable insights that contribute to program development and improve the organizations we work for. Stepping into our leadership role, this input can help shape policies and procedures that better align with the needs of peers.  

Maintains A Positive Reputation In Peer/Professional Communities

Never underestimate the power of a positive reputation. We should always strive to conduct ourselves with integrity, authenticity, and professionalism. By doing so, we earn the respect and trust of our peers, colleagues, and the wider community.

Remember, with every interaction we have, we are representing the entire field of peer support. 

Category XII: Promotes Growth and Development: Continuing the Journey

As we reach the last core competency of peer support, just know it’s not the end of your journey. This is because Category XII focuses on competencies that promote growth and development, both personally and professionally.

Recognizes The Limits Of Their Knowledge And Seeks Assistance From Others When Needed

As peer support workers, we don’t have all the answers, and that’s ok. In all reality, no one does, not even the experts. Understanding the limits of our knowledge and not being afraid to ask for help makes us stronger.

Supervision, ongoing training, and collaboration allow us to continuously expand our expertise and improve our skills. In fact, this is the exact reason we created MHAPSS.

We wanted a space for everyone in peer support to learn and grow together. 

Uses Supervision Effectively By Monitoring Self And Relationships, Preparing For Meetings, And Engaging In Problem-Solving Strategies With The Supervisor

Supervision and mentoring can be amazing tools for growth. It provides an opportunity to reflect on our practice and improve our skills as peer support workers. Not only that, but it provides a space for constructive feedback. 

If used correctly, this feedback can strengthen our relationships with those we serve.

Reflects And Examines Own Personal Motivations, Judgments, And Feelings That May Be Activated By The Peer Work, Recognizing Signs Of Distress, And Knowing When To Seek Support

Peer support work can be stressful and take a toll if we’re not careful. Taking time for self-reflection is a must. 

Trust me on this one. 

By being self-aware, we can recognize warning signs and know when to ask for help.

Stressed out woman

Remember, just because you are supporting others, doesn’t mean you don’t need help sometimes.

In fact, it is quite the opposite.

Seeks Opportunities To Increase Knowledge And Skills Of Peer Support

As far as peer support core competencies, continuous learning is one of our favorite. Workshops, training programs, and online resources (Wink, Wink) are all great options to improve your skills.

By staying up to date on the latest research, best practices, and trends in the field we can make a bigger impact in people’s lives. 

Fosters A Culture Of Learning And Growth Within The Peer Support Community

As leaders in the peer support community, we strive to foster a culture of learning and growth. Sharing our knowledge and experiences with our peers, we create opportunities for mutual learning and support.

Moreover, in this community of continuous learning, we strengthen the collective expertise and effectiveness of peer support as a whole.

One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn't as individuals.

Contributes To The Development And Improvement Of Peer Support Practice Through Research, Innovation, And Sharing Of Best Practices

Peer support workers have a unique perspective and valuable insights into the field. Mainly, because we have been through it. Because of this, we can actively contribute to the development and improvement of peer support.

If presented the opportunity, we should engage in research, collaborate, and document our experiences. At the end of the day, each one of us shapes the future of this field and contributes to it’s growth.

Embraces A Mindset Of Lifelong Learning And Personal Growth

Our growth and development directly impact the support we provide to our peers. Because of this, we should actively seek out opportunities for self-improvement. In other words, embrace new challenges, and step outside of your comfort zone!

As we continue to learn and grow, so does our ability to support others.  

Peer Support Core Competencies: A Final Note

Congratulations on reaching the end of this comprehensive article covering the core competencies for peer support. We know it was a long read, and there was a lot discussed!

(It took minute to write this too!)

These competencies, as described by SAMHSA provide a solid foundation for peer support professionals to work and grow. Learning to put them into practice can take practice, so don’t be discouraged if it seems overwhelming.

Just remember, you’re not alone in your peer support journey. We are all part of a growing community committed to making a difference.

Let’s celebrate our accomplishments, support one another, and continue to move forward together.

We just want to take a minute to thank you for the work you do. Moreover, we encourage you to reach out or leave a comment if you have questions or ideas about how we could better serve this community.

You can also get discussion topic ideas, new insights and updates about MHAPSS through our newsletter.

Once again, thank you and we wish you the best in your work! -The MHAPSS Team

Elijah Meason


Elijah Meason is a Certified Peer Support Worker in the State of New Mexico. He is a SMART Recovery facilitator and is working toward getting his Masters degree in social work. He is currently working at a dual diagnosis treatment center helping individuals overcome mental health and addiction challenges.

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